When traffic to a website comes from an organic search, it means that someone typed a query into a search engine and then clicked on an unpaid text link from a list of search engine results — not the results that say “Ad,” or “Sponsored.”
What does organic search mean?
When you think about all the ways a visitor can find his or her way to your website, it’s a bit dizzying. There’s direct search, organic search, paid search, plus all the different forms and places that searches can originate (i.e., social media, search engines, ads, bookmarks). A direct search is when someone types your URL into a search engine specifically to go to your website. If someone knows what type of content or website she wants to land on, but doesn’t know the destination ahead of time, she’ll type keywords into a browser — like “coworking offices near me” — and then get a list of search results, which will include ads and sponsored content (at the top of the page and margins), followed by a list of text links. These text links are organic search results.
For the most part, organic search results are driven by search engine optimization, or SEO. If your company has a good SEO strategy, then your website can eventually appear organically in one of the coveted positions on a search engine results page (SERP), in this order:
- The number-one position on a SERP is the most coveted.
- A position in one of the top three search results is the next best thing.
- Landing on the first page of search results is the very least you can hope for, in terms of search results positioning.
Just to explain really quick why it’s so important to focus on your organic search results, consider these stats by Moz, a marketing analytics platform, “On average, 71.33 percent of searches result in a page one organic click. Page two and three get only 5.59 percent of the clicks.” And even if your site does manage to find its way onto page one, Moz adds this, “On the first page alone, the first five results account for 67.60 percent of all the clicks and the results from six to 10 account for only 3.73 percent.”
Organic search vs. paid search
Right now, you might be thinking, “Can I just pay for my website to show up at the top of SERPs?” Yes, yes you can! And for that to happen fast, it’ll cost you. Paid search is when you use a platform like Google Adwords to bid in an auction on specific keywords. (You can also run a paid search campaign on social media sites.) When you hit on the right combination of keyword/bid, you could conceivably see your URL or display ad at the top of SERPs in no time at all. Just FYI, though, it’s not that difficult to find or identify the right mix of keywords. In fact, the paid-search or social media platform you use to create your campaign can help you in that area. Or if you have SEO skills or an SEO specialist on your team, even better because keywords play an important role in all types of search results.
Organic and paid search do have some things in common. For both, you still need to get a search engine — like Google — to associate your website with certain keywords. But that’s just a fraction of how SEO-driven organic search results works. Your content and social media strategies are also very important.
All search engines produce results based on a complicated and not-entirely-transparent algorithm. Though there is a sort of rulebook that search engine marketing professional are pretty good at learning and keeping up with.
The good news is that you don’t have to know the algorithm to get your website to rank highly in organic searches. But unlike paid searches, it does take more time for a website to crawl its way up those coveted search engine results pages and even further up the top 10 spots. And if you’re wondering if it costs more to get your website to become a number-one organic search spot earner, well, there’s no simple yes or no answer.
On the one hand, it doesn’t cost anything in that you don’t have to bid on keywords and clicks — as in, pay-per click, or PPC. On the other hand, if you’re paying someone to do your SEO, then yes, you’re paying someone a salary so your company can compete in the organic-search arena and get the results you want.
Ultimately, when you have a search strategy that works, whether it’s a paid or organic search campaign, it will show in your traffic and return on investment (ROI).
How to master organic search
How a company masters organic search is the million-dollar question. There are so many different variables at play, like what type of company you have, what search category the company or products occupy, and what your competition is (including their SEO skills). An SEO professional will find the keywords that will help search engines find and rank your site and then deliver your URL to the people searching browsers like Google and Bing for your business or category. Once that happens? According to SmartBug, the work of an SEO specialist never ends. “As a marketer, it is important to look at your keywords and high-ranking pages to identify new SEO opportunities each month.”
One thing you need to know, though, is that keyword-ranking is just one part of SEO and your organic search strategy.
What’s not debatable is that your website traffic will provide important information about the health of your overall organic search strategy (as well as paid search, organic search, and direct search campaigns). And what organic traffic will uniquely bring to your site is attention and popularity that paid search actually cannot buy.